Using Estate Management to Remedy Financial Exploitation

Sandy Calbreath, Trust Officer

When the widow, whom we will call Elizabeth, recovered from her initial shock and grief over the death of her husband, she received a second shock.   Her husband’s estate had been settled within months of his death, and she found that she had only half of her former assets. 

Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, a trusted relative had convinced Elizabeth’s husband to rewrite his will in the last days of his life.  The will placed the husband’s share of their assets into a trust which could be used for Elizabeth’s benefit only if she were totally impoverished and on government assistance.  The trust would ultimately benefit the relative’s child.

Gone were the investment assets which she and her husband had accrued over their lifetimes.  Instead, Elizabeth’s share of the estate contained non-income producing real estate and minimal retirement and annuity funds.  To make matters worse, the relative controlled her bank accounts and Elizabeth had no access to her funds.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s financial advisor watched uneasily as assets were withdrawn from her account and questioned whether the estate was divided correctly.  He arranged for Elizabeth to meet with us in the hopes that we could help.  With the advice of her attorney, Elizabeth appointed Northwest Trustee & Management Services as trustee of her revocable trust to manage her assets and address her legal issues. 

When Elizabeth endeavored to regain control of her assets, the relative attempted to have her declared incompetent and himself appointed as her guardian.  With a legal team in place to assist her, Elizabeth was able to fight the suit successfully and recover more than $100,000 in assets which were wrongfully taken from her estate. 

Thanks to the willingness of Elizabeth’s financial advisor to “blow the whistle” on an appalling situation, Elizabeth now has adequate means to support herself.  She also has the peace of mind knowing that she has a trustworthy team around her to manage her financial affairs.  

Print Date:  Fall 2005